Growing up, my older sister (like countless other American girls) was Baby-Sitters Club obsessed, and by semi-default, so was I. In case you are unfamiliar with the franchise (HOW DARE YOU), it centers on a group of tween girls who start a babysitting business (read: EMPIRE) in their town. They’re all about FRIENDSHIP and FUN (except when it’s NOT because serious issues like DIVORCE and DIABETES), plus they enjoy the occasional CAPER! It is GREAT!
Of course there was the Ann M. Martin book series that started it all, and that 1995 film adaptation with Rachael Lee Cook, but the stand-out for me was the 1990 TV series; I don’t remember how many of the VHS tapes we owned, but “Dawn and the Haunted House” and “The Baby-Sitters Club’s Special Christmas” were vividly always on heavy rotation. I’ve remained fascinated by the episodes well into adulthood (a few years ago I even bought the vintage CD soundtrack, WHICH SLAPS, IF I MAY SAY), so I was slightly skeptical of the new Netflix-commissioned take.
And, for the most part, my skepticism was wildly unwarranted. The show nails pretty much everything; there’s a fine line between honoring tradition and updating a narrative to suit the times, and The Baby-Sitters Club walks it beautifully. While it stays true to many of the characters and storylines (more than expected, TBH), it uses the girls’ (and townspeoples’) diverse histories and backgrounds to weave in conversations (some subtle, some less-so) about important issues today, including trans rights (PS, I was SO EXCITED to see Kai Shappley as Bailey!), immigration detention, cyber bullying, income inequality, protesting and more.
It. Is. WONDERFUL.
BUT, I’m 32. While I have contextual insight, I wanted to find out if the series feels relevant to the average kid. So, I called my 9-year-old niece (who also housed all the episodes in under a week) to get her official input.
DO WE LIKE THIS?
Straight and to the point, my niece rates the overall vibe as “really good, and a little bit funny.” I would say the same thing, plus “AND WOKE AF.”
IS THE SERIES RELATABLE, AND IS IT AGE APPROPRIATE?
The main thing I was wondering about was whether or not the show feels age appropriate; there’s no SEX DRUGS ‘N ROCK ‘N ROLL or anything like that, but I was curious if any of the topics explored would feel outside the realm of interest or comfort for a 9-year-old. My niece’s official verdict is: “I think that you should probably be 9 or up to watch it.” (Clever, making your own age the official YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE cut-off. Big power move.) I asked why she thought so, and she hesitantly replied that “some parts were a little…weird.” I pressed her to elaborate on that, and the only example she had was “when Mary Anne and Stacey were at the beach, and Stacey saw this boy.” PREACH! (In case you haven’t watched, she’s referring to Stacey and her pursuit of a lifeguard who’s like, practically a grown man.) Slash also, I was so relieved and proud that that seemed to be the only thing my niece pointed to as potentially age inappropriate; like I mentioned, the show takes on lots of important conversations about a variety of issues, but none of that seemed to make her feel out of her depth. (HECK YEAH!)
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CHARACTER?
Semi-ironically (considering she’d just thrown her under the bus for age-inappropriate behavior), my niece said her favorite character was Stacey. I personally don’t feel I can choose a favorite; in terms of social justice warriors, Mary Anne and Dawn take the cake. If we’re going on style, Claudia is queen. (And Kristy. The commitment to turtlenecks is CHEF’S KISS.) But also, if we’re talking BIG MOODS, I award all of my points to Karen. That little weirdo (who is going through her “spooky phase”) is 100% in my wheelhouse!
IS IT GOING TO INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION OF BABYSITTERS?
Obviously I had to ask if the series had inspired my niece to want to babysit, which it definitely had done for me and my sister. “Some of it yes, and some of it no,” she said. I asked her to expand on that, and she said, “Yes because you make money and you get to take care of kids, and no because kids can get crazy.” (RE: money motivation, we are definitely related.)
FINAL VERDICT – DO WE RECOMMEND THIS?
Yes, if you are 9+!
BONUS NOTES RE: FORCING MY NIECE TO LISTEN TO ME ABOUT OLD PEOPLE TECHNOLOGY:
At one point I asked my niece if she knew what a VHS tape was, and tried to explain it to her as “this rectangular thing you put in the TV to play movies”. (Eloquent!) And I proudly reminded her that we (meaning my older sister) had that exact clear cord phone they use for their business calls. I know my sister has likely proudly reminded her of this multiple times, too, but IT IS TOO FLIPPIN’ COOL NOT TO CONSTANTLY BRING IT UP.
Do you agree with us re: 9+? Or do you think the age should be different? LET US KNOW!